Corporate users slow to adopt XP

As the dust settles on the razzle dazzle of the XP launch, resellers are getting down to the business of selling Microsoft's newest operating system.

According to figures from market analyst Inform, Australian retailers sold more than $750,000 of XP stock in the first four days it was on sale.

Inform's figures are based on data it gathers from its panel of top 20 Australian retailers which covers about 80 per cent of the retail business software market.

Windows XP Upgrade was the big earner for retailers with 1800 copies sold according to Inform. Meanwhile, the full version of XP sold 130 copies. Other XP sales recorded in Inform's statistics saw 140 copies of XP Pro being sold as well as 450 copies of XP Pro Upgrade.

But the reaction surrounding Windows XP's success from resellers has been mixed. While retail giant Harvey Norman saw its sales figures rise above expectations across its stores, corporate retailers will have to wait a little longer before they find out if XP lives up to expectations.

"I don't think we have sold a single copy," declared Computerland's sales manager Jim Lang. "Noone is making the move to XP. Our customer set is not retail and their focus is still on Windows 2000," Lang said, adding much of Computerland's Microsoft business is done through licencing programs.

However things were far more positive on the retail side.

"Sales are above the expectations for both Harvey Norman and Microsoft," said the retailer's general manager of computers and communications, John Slack-Smith. "The level of interest has been high and not just on the sales side. We are talking to customers about the benefits of digital music and photography, mobile advantages. We are even having conversations with gamers about the system."

However Slack-Smith admits the corporate market is a nut that will take a lot longer to crack.

"We are doing little to no sales in that sector," he assented. "But the corporate market has never been the early adopters. Customers always wait for the first update of the release."

IDC senior analyst Logan Ringland said his feedback has been that XP has not as yet provided a PC sales stimulus.

He believes the lack of current activity to be the result of local pressures and local economic uncertainty as much as it is to do with any global problems. A looming federal election has halted government spending while big corporate collapses have clouded everyone's outlook, Ringland said.

"[Windows] XP will only start to go off when the sales of PCs start to go off," Ringland said. "The amount of money Microsoft has spent on marketing is phenomenal and it has got people talking about PCs again. But I still don't think it is enough on its own to make people start buying PCs again.

"There are no new applications coming on the market to drive sales. I think the next big thing to drive sales will probably be broadband."

General manager of bponline at Byte Power Martin Bicknell agreed.

"There seems to be a lot of hype, but we haven't had a lot of enquiries for the corporate side," he said. "People are more worried about world politics at the moment."

But the release has piqued consumers interest, with Leading Edge retailers reporting a strong response from customers, even if sales had only been moderate.

"I believe the Windows XP operating system is great and I am recommending it to anyone and everyone," said David Marshall, director of Spade Computer Sales in Shepparton.

"We've certainly had a good response and most customers seem to like XP," said Tony Roberts from Leading Edge Computers Sunshine Coast. "There is very little "I'd prefer to wait until the next version" like there was with Windows Me."

Colin MacKinnon from Leading Edge Computers in Cairns said most sales had come from the home market, but XP has brought in some unexpected business.

"Most of the buzz here are the jobs coming in where people have upgraded elsewhere and now the computer doesn't work, or the drivers are missing," he said.

Harvey Norman franchisees have found quite the opposite.

"We had a customer who has had trouble with drivers on old system and found upgrading to XP fixed the problem," Slack-Smith said.

The key to ongoing success will be maintaining the sales momentum from the first weeks until Christmas, he warned, by talking about the product and ongoing marketing campaigns.

"The industry has the responsibility to lift the profile of the product and we will all see some flow on benefit."

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